McDonald Bradley stakes claim on Semantic Web

Integrator McDonald Bradley Inc., Herndon, Va. is focusing its efforts on web applications, including the emerging field of the Semantic Web, said Kenneth Bartee, president of McDonald Bradley.

In an interview with Washington Technology, Bartee said the company has been doing proof-concept and prototype Semantic Web work with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency, work it expects to leverage elsewhere.

"Our other clients will want to use this same technology once it's proven. If we can be on the leading edge of this, have the past-performance and develop some of the services around the code, we can take that a lot of places," Bartee said.

The company is seeing results already. Bartee said it has received calls from large integrators about possible partnerships for the Homeland Security Department's $10 billion Spirit contract. This multiple-award contract, the solicitation of which is due this month, calls for a full range of IT services for the Coast Guard, according to Federal Sources Inc., Chantilly, Va.

Bartee said he expects the Spirit contract to involve considerable Web security work, to which Semantic Web tools could contribute.

Some see the Semantic Web as the natural extension of the World Wide Web. Conceived by Tim Berners-Lee, who originated the idea of the World Wide Web, the Semantic Web aims to enable computers and other electronic devices to make more intelligent decisions about what actions they should take.

McDonald Bradley's original focus had been on independent validation and verification and work in visual intelligence systems. Although the company has not made a public announcement detailing its new focus on Web work, it has undergone a gradual shift in that direction, Bartee said.

In the past three years, the company won new work for the development of Web applications. Customers include the county of Fairfax, Va., the National Reconnaissance Office, the Housing and Urban Development Department and others.

The company sees Semantic Web as part of the range of solutions it offers. In the Defense Intelligence Agency's Knowledge Base project, McDonald is creating a high-level framework for repositories of data, which will be used by software agents to ferret out unique combinations of information.

In DISA's Net-Centric Enterprise Services project, the company is investigating how to expand the contexts of search queries. For example, a Semantic Web search could take numerical Global Positioning System coordinates and automatically expand the search to include towns and other locations at those coordinates.

"Today, all you can do is word searches," Bartee said. "Semantic Web tags the data, so that one relationship ties to another. So when you do a semantic search, you look at the meaning of the word, rather than just what the word is."

Although many of the protocols that would run the Semantic Web are still in the research phase, "the government is now paying to accelerate where it's at to prove the concepts," Bartee said.

With 200 employees, privately held McDonald Bradley did $20 million in revenue for 2002 and expects that number to jump to more than$30 million this year. The company has about 85 openings.

A secret weapon in McDonald Bradley's arsenal is its 2000 purchase of Synergy Solutions. Syngery had less than five employees but included considerable talent in the nascent field of the Semantic Web and extensible markup language, or XML.

Among those at Synergy was Michael Daconta, now chief scientist for the advanced programs group at McDonald Bradley. Daconta, along with Kevin Smith, principal software architect of the company, have written a book "The Semantic Web: A Guide to the Future of XML, Web Services, and Knowledge Management," which was published in May by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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